Home' Grower : November 2009 Contents Stone fruit
The South Australian Grower -- November 2009
Group approach gives stone
fruit growers price control
By SARAH SLEE
AS WITH producers of
stone fr uit growers are
price-takers, not price-makers.
But Bookpurnong grower
Jason Size is working hard to
take some control in an effort
to achieve the best possible
price for his fruit.
Fifteen years ago, hen was
part of a group of Riverland
growers who came together to
pack their fruit under a single
label Zest, and formed the
company Quality Fr uit
Growers were brought
together by a realisation that
they were all fighting the same
"We were going to the
market by ourselves, bartering
for a price with limited volume,
and fighting against each other
all the time," Jason said.
"We recognised that we were
growing a similar quality of
fruit, so it made sense to unite
under one label, giving us
greater volume to demand a
That volume enabled the Zest
label to secure contracts with
including Coles and Foodland,
and break into export markets.
Zest fruit is exported to
Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore
Last year, the four growers
that remain from the original
group came together to
purchase a packing shed at
Renmark, doubling the group's
Other smaller growers have
the opportunity to pack and
market their fruit under the
Zest label -- provided it meets
strict quality standards. Growers
who fail to meet quality
specifications have their fruit
removed from the pooling
"We pride ourselves on
consistent quality in quantity,"
Jason said. "We want everyone
in the group to be producing
such quality that retailers are
unable to distinguish whose
fruit is whose."
The move also gives smaller
growers the opportunity to
access export markets, which
Jason says is a bonus for all
"At the end of the day, if all
fruit is put on the domestic
market, the price goes down.
But if we shift a quantity of that
fruit to export, hopefully we
can maintain a stronger price
for a longer term," he said.
Jason, with wife Joanne and
parents-in-law Tony and Karen
Brand, grows 30 varieties of
peaches, nectarines, apricots,
plums and pluots. The family
has about 25,000 trees
Water still key issue for industry
THE South Australian stone fruit season
has kicked into gear, with most growers
picking early varieties towards the end of
According to SA Fresh Fruit Growers
Association chairman Dino Cerracchi,
many in the industry are still struggling
to get by, with weather and economic
conditions proving difficult.
"All around we have had a very
challenging year, with the climatic
conditions and also the financial burdens
of the high dollar, having to buy water and
the flow on effect from the past few
years," Mr Cerracchi said.
"There's not the confidence within the
industry that there used to be -- growers
have learnt to tread more carefully."
Recent increases in water allocations
had seen conditions improve on last
year, however many growers have been
unable to take advantage of the drop in
"Demand for water isn't so high this
year, but growers have to think ahead --
meaning that most bought water a long
time ago when the prices were higher
just to ensure they would have enough,"
Mr Cerracchi said.
"You can't run a business and sit around
not buying water hoping that the price will
come down -- we are still having to buy in
more than half our water."
Low chill conditions throughout winter
would mean mid to late season varieties
of high-chill fruits, such as nectarines,
could be in shorter supply than usual.
Strong winds while fruit was coming
out of flower have resulted in excessive
markings, which could see grower prices
"While there is a lot of insecurity, the
stone fruit industry has been successful
in overcoming obstacles, and we are by
no means the worst off out there," Mr
The stone fruit industry has shown
resilience in recent years, although there
was concern about changes to the
horticulture award system.
Mr Cerracchi believed the
modernisation of award rates posed a
threat to grower viability, with overtime
rates set to skyrocket under the
proposed award changes.
"We simply cannot sustain some of the
impositions they are trying to put on us,"
Mr Cerracchi said.
"Everything is very much up in the air,
and since the changes are only going to
be released on the first of January, it
gives growers very little time to prepare."
Mr Cerracchi believed the new award
could be counter-productive in the long
"What's the point of having a
modernised award if a worker can't get a
job because a grower can't afford to pay
them?" he said.
Uncertainty surrounding the award
changes was building as the stone fruit
industry entered picking season, its
busiest time of the year.
Details: Dino Cerracchi 0418 892 558
Grow for the market
Use water efficiently
AT A GLANCE
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